Often we post a strange, high-specced foreign device only to lament that it will never be made available in the west. The reason, often assumed to be some hypothetical propensity for Asians to buy 20 cell phones a year and therefore support more competing products, is in truth far more direct: the products stink. Lisa Katayama’s feature on Japan’s fancy handsets explains why: their smart looks conceal severe usability problems and bad user interfaces.
Once you open the clamshell, the interface is a complete mess. While American-made phones are leaning more and more towards simple interfaces and clean design, Japanese gadgets continue to be plagued with feature overload and nightmarish interfaces that are totally impractical.
Katayama goes deep into the odd politics of the Japanese telecoms industry, its disdain for software engineering, and how that leads them to develop and market similarly odd devices. But some things are true the world over: there, as here, the handset manufacturers are virtual slaves of the cellular carrier.